The Musikserver's small 260 x 243 x 88mm footprint put an unexpected 4.5kg on the scale. In the middle of the front sat the white LED ring start button. At the back were 2 x USB 2.0 and 2 x USB 3.0 connections, a VGA monitor output, an HDMI port, the Ethernet plug and the 12V power receptacle. Of course we had to know what's inside. Undoing the larger screw at the back made it possible to slide off the top. That was lined with a slab of heavy bitumous damping. Directly under the lid sat a sub-frame containing our Samsung 1TB SSD drive for music storage. Beneath the sub-frame sat the small motherboard. At the left back we saw the mini 120GB SSD drive for the Windows operating system. The pièce de resistance was the liquid-cooled CPU with heat pipes running to the left finned heat sink. Like the lid, the bottom of the casing was damped with another slab of bitumous material. All in all a nice, simple and clever setup.  

After our initial inspection of the Musikserver, a quick read of the Benutzerhandbuch and of course Peter Schippers' explanations, we felt confident enough to start our reviewing job. For that we had to work through two additional steps. One was to load some music to the SSD of the MS II, the other was decide which additional components were suitable for the Musikserver. For the first step we connected a portable USB hard disk to a USB 3.0 port.
Then we made connection to the server from a laptop by means of a Remote Desktop session. If a user is unfamiliar with such a connection, the manual guides one through it step by step. Another option is to have Audiodata assist from Aachen. At this point we ran into the first obstacle. The Musikserver running Windows 7 was no problem but it ran the operating system within the German locale.

That meant among other things that the keyboard followed the German layout. Instead of our familiar QWERTY, it was configured as QWERTZ. Just like the French, the Germans are a bit idiosyncratic when it comes to computers. They not only run a different keyboard layout with additional characters like ü, ö & ä but specific German or French commands where the rest of the world uses English. Saving a file becomes anspeichern. Fortunately there was an excellent article on German keyboards on Wikipedia. We transferred 1TB of music in various formats like MP3 (yes, really), 16/44.1 WAV, 24/96 FLAC and even DSD to the Musikserver.

With music loaded, we had to assemble the rest of the system. Audiodata offer a full service deal that takes the load off the user's shoulders on all the quirks of computer audio. Be it telephone support or dialling in, the user is not bothered by PCfi matters. Given that, we decided to match the Musikserver to another simple component, a Devialet D-Premier. One of our D-Premier drives a pair of Soltanus ESL Virtuoso electrostatic loudspeakers. This Devialet has two downsides: its shiny casing has discoloured like rust; and there's no USB. Fortunately we had chosen the USB-to-S/PDIF menu option for the Audiodata. With our all-in-one DAC/pre/power Devialet and speakers, the Musikserver would make a nice combo in the low maintenance category. We just wondered how things would sound.

First to play was Brad Mehldau's Blues and Ballads in Redbook guise. The trio sounded very balanced and had enough dynamic persuasion. On the "Cheryl" track, drummer Jeff Ballard has a solo and playing via the MSII into the merciless ESL speakers, his drum kit was in the room. The Soltanus ESL Virtuoso is a full-range electrostat and not shy about putting out real deep bass. Another album with piano in the lead was Martin Tingval's Distance. We played this dreamy album in its 24bit/48kHz guise and just like with the previous album, were content with the sound quality. Stepping up not only tempo but sample rate, we next played Al di Meola's Elysium from his 24bit/96kHz release. Lightning-fast guitars, catchy percussion and lyrical melodies came our way. JRiver offers plenty of possibilities to compile playlists beforehand but manual ad hoc selection of albums or single tracks are child's play, too. A remarkable fact was how switching from one album or track to a new one by manually selecting it worked very fast; almost instantly no matter the resolution or format change. Mind you, JRiver was configured to play direct from disk and not via the memory buffer option.